From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Leaders from Across Americas Reach out to Chile
In the days since an 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile claimed roughly 800 lives and devastated infrastructure, leaders from across the Western Hemisphere have rallied to show their support for relief efforts. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton each traveled to Chile in the wake of the disaster to pledge assistance. Peruvian President Alan García, who has not traveled to Chile in a year due to a maritime-boundary dispute, also visited to pledge humanitarian aid, saying: “We need to strengthen our fraternity, our closeness, and in these moments of need, work toward a true union of peoples.” Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that he will donate half his salary to Chilean and Haitian earthquake relief efforts. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Peru are among the countries sending crucial supplies, such as satellite phones, field hospitals, medical equipment, and blankets.
Access an AS/COA Online resource guide to the Chilean earthquake, with links to maps, images, and additional sources of information.
Two recent crises have overtaken the U.S.’s broader policy framework and agenda for the region. First, there was the coup in Honduras, now the tragedy in Haiti. The first was a potentially avoidable political train wreck that ended up dividing the hemisphere, the latter, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the hemisphere’s history and an opportunity to unite the hemisphere.
Together the two countries, whose populations total just under 17 million people, have dominated the U.S. policy agenda in a region with close to 600 million people. In other words, we risk having lost our focus on genuine regional powers such as Brazil and looming political problems such as Venezuela by focusing on the immediate crises of just under 3 percent of the region’s population.
But there is hope. For all its heart-wrenching tragedy, Haiti is an opportunity to forge a broader hemispheric coalition and agenda in a way we failed in Honduras. Creating this historical partnership requires establishing a broad regional framework for monetary pledges, coordination, modalities, and goals of a comprehensive, long-term relief plan for Haiti that builds off Brazil and Chile’s long-standing commitment and the U.S.’s deep pockets and military and humanitarian presence.
Time, though, is running out.